ORANGE — Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers President Kimberly Claytor joined Orange County clergy and organized labor leaders Wednesday to advocate for Proposition 30, which would raise taxes on high-income earners to pay for schools, and other initiatives on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice in Orange County called a press conference here. Claytor attended on behalf of the teachers' union.
Schools have faced declining budgets over the last several years, which has forced teachers to reach further into their pockets, she said, adding that Prop. 30 would stop mid-year cuts to K-12 schools.
She was joined by the Rev. Sarah Halverson of Costa Mesa's Fairview Community Church, who sees Prop. 30 and a few other measures as matters of social justice.
"We believe that it is our call from God that all our religions stand up for justice," Halverson said.
"California is at a crossroads," said Tefere Gebre, executive director of Orange County Labor Federation. "We have never had an election as [important as] the one we have coming up. It will define California as never before."
Proposition 30, which is backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would temporarily increase sales taxes while increasing income taxes for the highest earners to fund education and public safety. Critics have said the money would go to the state general fund and there are not enough protections in place to keep politicians from spending the money however they see fit.
The proposition asks those who have prospered to pay their fair share, Gebre said.
"We're not asking for anything extra — we're asking for the status quo," he said. "A lot of things that we take for granted now, we will lose if Proposition 30 does not happen."
Event organizers also called on voters to vote yes on Propositions 34 (ending the death penalty) and 36 (three-strikes law reform) while opposing Proposition 32 (union payroll deduction ban).
Proposition 34 would repeal the death penalty, even for those already sentenced, and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Polls, however, have shown the measure trailing, as California voters have long favored capital punishment.
Crime is a great concern, but the answer is not in killing, said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.
"The death penalty is a crime in itself," he said.
Proposition 36 would revise the three-strike law so a life sentence could only be granted for a serious or violent new felony. If approved, some people sentenced to life in prison could be resentenced to shorter terms if their third strike wasn't a serious or violent felony.
Biola University Associate Professor Thomas Crisp argued that California has gone too far in its pursuit of safety with the three-strike law, which compromises justice and human dignity by sentencing those who commit trivial crimes to life in prison.
Criminals should serve their time, be rehabilitated and then be able to rejoin their families, he said.
"We have to go back and fix this injustice, to right this wrong," he said.
Three-strikes supporters say repealing it would give criminals a chance to commit other, potentially more serious crimes.
Proposition 32 would prohibit unions from using payroll deductions for political purposes.
If passed, organized labor's voice would be limited and it would be stopped from standing up to special interests, said Gilbert Davila, organizing director for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324.
"It's a first of a one-two punch to give even more government control to corporate special interests," he said.
Proposition 32 opponents argue that workers who do not wish to have a portion of their paychecks diverted should have that choice.